Google to educate consumers about cyber crime

18 Jan 2012

To combat the growing problem of cyber crime, Google has decided to take matters into its own hands. Yesterday in the US, it started Good to Know, a consumer education campaign the internet giant is hoping will make the web a safer place.

So US consumers will soon be seeing ads splayed across everything from the New York and Washington, DC, subways to ads in US newspapers and magazines.

According to Google, the aim is to help increase digital literacy. Just last autumn, Google launched a similar ad campaign in Germany and the UK to offer privacy and security tips. Google has not confirmed how much money it is pouring into the US campaign but it is believed to be in the tens of millions of dollars, according to a statement from a Google spokesperson yesterday.

“Does this person sound familiar? He can’t be bothered to type a password into his phone every time he wants to play a game of Angry Birds. When he does need a password, maybe for his email or bank website, he chooses one that’s easy to remember like his sister’s name – and he uses the same one for each website he visits,” said Alma Whitten, director of Privacy, Product and Engineering at Google.

She said this will be Google’s biggest consumer education campaign yet.

It’s a timely move. Just this past Sunday, the online shoe retailer experienced a cyber attack. Hackers broke into a Zappos server in the state of Kentucky in a move that gave them access to the personal records of up to 24m Zappos customers

Here’s a couple of fundamentals Google is advocating on its Good to Know website:

  • Use two-step verification when opening your online accounts. This means you have access to your phone, as well as your username and password, when you sign into your account. So, if a hacker does manage to decipher your password, they can’t access your account because they won’t have your phone.
  • Lock your computer when you’re away from it.
  • Make sure the site you are browsing is safe. Note that a safe site’s address starts with “https://” and will display a padlock icon in your browser.

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic